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A double murder suspect in a Sonic Drive-In shooting makes surprise guilty plea, death penalty still on the table

<i>CHRIS MACHIAN/AP</i><br/>A memorial for the victims was set up in November 2020 at Sonic Drive-In in Bellevue
A memorial for the victims was set up in November 2020 at Sonic Drive-In in Bellevue

By Andy Rose, CNN

A Nebraska man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday in the 2020 shooting deaths of two employees at a Sonic Drive-In, prosecutors said.

Roberto Silva Jr. also pleaded guilty to arson, the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office said in a news release Tuesday. Police had said Silva set a rental truck on fire in the parking lot of the Sonic in Bellevue, Nebraska, in November 2020 as a distraction to draw people out before opening fire.

Nathan Pastrana, 22, and Ryan Helbert, 28, were killed and two other workers were injured, officials said.

“Roberto Silva knowingly walked into a restaurant that day and killed two people and injured two others,” County Attorney Lee Polikov said in a written statement. He noted prosecutors will still seek the death penalty, despite the plea.

Silva’s plea was not part of a deal and it surprised prosecutors, CNN affiliate WOWT reported.

“Cases can sometimes be unpredictable and that’s what unfolded in court (Monday),” County Attorney Chief Deputy Bonnie Moore said.

Under Nebraska law, the state Supreme Court will appoint a three-judge panel to determine whether the death penalty is warranted in the case.

CNN has been unable to reach Silva’s legal representatives.

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CNN’s Jennifer Feldman, Rebekah Riess and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.

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